James Finley v. People of the State of California, No. 15

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation32 S.Ct. 13,56 L.Ed. 75,222 U.S. 28
Decision Date06 November 1911
PartiesJAMES W. FINLEY, Piff. in Err., v. PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Docket NumberNo. 15

222 U.S. 28
32 S.Ct. 13
56 L.Ed. 75
JAMES W. FINLEY, Piff. in Err.,

v.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.

No. 15.
Argued and Submitted October 26, 1911.
Decided November 6, 1911.

Messrs. C. C. Calhoun, James N. Sharp, H. G. W. Dinkelspiel, Samuel T. Bush, and G. C. Ringolsky for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 28-30 intentionally omitted]

Page 30

Mr. U. S. Webb, Attorney General of California, and Mr. E. B. Power for defendant in error.

Memorandum opinion, by direction of the court, by Mr. Justice McKenna:

Section 246 of the Penal Code of the state of California provides as follows: 'Every person undergoing a life sentence in a state prison of this state, who, with malice aforethought, commits an assault upon the person of another with a deadly weapon or instrument, or by any means or force likely to produce great bodily injury, is punishable with death.'

Page 31

Plaintiff in error was indicted under this section, tried, found guilty, and the death penalty imposed. To the judgment of the supreme court of the state, affirming the sentence against him, he prosecutes this writ of error, and urges as ground thereof that § 246 is repugnant to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in that it denies to him the equal protection of the laws, because it provides an exceptional punishment for life prisoners.

The supreme court sustained the law on the ground that there was a proper basis for classification between convicts serving life sentences in the state prison, as defendant was when he committed the crime for which he was indicted and found guilty, and convicts serving lesser terms.

It is elementary that the contention is to be tested by considering whether there is a basis for the classification made by the statute. Applying that test, we see no error in the ruling. As said by Mr. Justice Henshaw, delivering the opinion of the court, 'The classification of the statute in question is not arbitrary, but is based upon valid reasons and distinctions.' And pointing out the distinction between life prisoners and other convicts, he said that 'the 'life termers,' as has been said, while within the prison walls, constitute a class by themselves,—a class recognized as such by penologists the world over. Their situation is legally different. Their civic death is perpetual.' [153 Cal. 62, 94 Pac. 248.] Manifestly there could be no extension of the term of imprisonment as a punishment for crimes...

To continue reading

Request your trial
25 practice notes
  • People v. Dorado, Cr. 7468
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 29, 1965
    ...330, 334-337, 202 P.2d 53; People v. Finley (1908), 153 Cal. 59, 62, 94 P. 248, affirmed in Finley v. Peope of State of California (1911), 222 U.S. 28, 31, 32 S.Ct. 13, 56 L.Ed. [398 P.2d 374] Page 182 Defendant urges that this court should change the above rule because of the adoption of t......
  • State ex Inf. McKittrick v. Kirby, No. 37925.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 25, 1942
    ...same rule are: Atchison, Topeka and S.F.R. v. Matthews, 174 U.S. 96, 19 Sup. Ct. 609, 43 L. Ed. 909; and Finley v. People of California, 222 U.S. 28, 32 Sup. Ct. 13, 56 L. Ed. 75. We are confronted, therefore, with the question of whether or not there was a reasonable and just relationship ......
  • Oyama v. State of California, No. 44
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 19, 1948
    ...law must carry the burden of showing that it does not rest upon any reasonable basis, but is essentially arbitrary.' Finley v. California, 222 U.S. 28, 32 S.Ct. 13, 56 L.Ed. 75....
  • Vandalia R. Co. v. Stilwell, No. 22,249.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • March 10, 1914
    ...1349;Murphy v. California (1912) 225 U. S. 623, 32 Sup. Ct. 697, 56 L. Ed. 1229, 41 L. R. A. (N. S.) 153;Finley v. California (1911) 222 U. S. 28, 32 Sup. Ct. 13, 56 L. Ed. 75;Chesapeake, etc., Co. v. Conley (1913) 230 U. S. 513, 33 Sup. Ct. 985, 57 L. Ed. 1597;Chicago, etc., Co. v. Fraley ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • People v. Dorado, Cr. 7468
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 29, 1965
    ...330, 334-337, 202 P.2d 53; People v. Finley (1908), 153 Cal. 59, 62, 94 P. 248, affirmed in Finley v. Peope of State of California (1911), 222 U.S. 28, 31, 32 S.Ct. 13, 56 L.Ed. [398 P.2d 374] Page 182 Defendant urges that this court should change the above rule because of the adoption of t......
  • State ex Inf. McKittrick v. Kirby, No. 37925.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 25, 1942
    ...same rule are: Atchison, Topeka and S.F.R. v. Matthews, 174 U.S. 96, 19 Sup. Ct. 609, 43 L. Ed. 909; and Finley v. People of California, 222 U.S. 28, 32 Sup. Ct. 13, 56 L. Ed. 75. We are confronted, therefore, with the question of whether or not there was a reasonable and just relationship ......
  • Oyama v. State of California, No. 44
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 19, 1948
    ...law must carry the burden of showing that it does not rest upon any reasonable basis, but is essentially arbitrary.' Finley v. California, 222 U.S. 28, 32 S.Ct. 13, 56 L.Ed. 75....
  • Vandalia R. Co. v. Stilwell, No. 22,249.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • March 10, 1914
    ...1349;Murphy v. California (1912) 225 U. S. 623, 32 Sup. Ct. 697, 56 L. Ed. 1229, 41 L. R. A. (N. S.) 153;Finley v. California (1911) 222 U. S. 28, 32 Sup. Ct. 13, 56 L. Ed. 75;Chesapeake, etc., Co. v. Conley (1913) 230 U. S. 513, 33 Sup. Ct. 985, 57 L. Ed. 1597;Chicago, etc., Co. v. Fraley ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT